Manchester: Bachata

In Dance, Manchester, Rant on July 29, 2016 at 11:55 pm

I went to my first ever Bachata class, it’s opposite the Dancehouse, very convenient and familiar ground for me. From the outside it’s an ordinary building but the top floor has two decent-sized dance/gym studios, it’s nicer than I expected.

Beginners class

There was no introduction, no quick run-down of class schedule. We went straight into the warm-up, I had no idea what to expect. The crowd was a variety of average people. I mention this because I’ve been accustomed to classical dancing (Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, Ballet) where a level of fitness is required, it’s a different environment I guess. Although looks can be deceiving, but the latin flavour attracts certain type of men you won’t find in the classes I usually go to. My soft nature was telling in a ‘macho’ environment, that’s a good thing right? I need to express more in Flamenco and a latin dance can enhance my confidence. Social dancing is a completely different beast – from what I can remember, it’s about making sure the lady is enjoying her dance – and less about my own self-expression. Is this correct? Personally I still prefer the self-reliance in classical dancing. If that makes sense?

I was ok with the footwork (simple shuffles), turns, plus a lot of hips included. Didn’t take me long to find the old salsa groove, it was nice to dance with different partners again. They were all kind and courteous. Except for one. For my first Bachata lesson I think I did well – this lady however, in her pretty dress, didn’t smile, didn’t talk, didn’t make eye contact, and basically couldn’t wait to switch partner – as if she was too good for me. I thought… she’s in Beginners, how good can a Beginner be? I’m not bothered about her thoughts, I just didn’t like the rudeness and lack of focus in our dance – isn’t there an unwritten rule to treat your partner with civility and respect? Isn’t it good etiquette to say thank you? Instead, she turned and walked off. It’s rude! She’s the type of person who can put off a shy beginner from returning to class. If I was the teacher and spotted that, I’d move her up to Intermediate, she might enjoy it more there. Guess what, she didn’t stay for Intermediate.

The hour flew by. I had fun! I’ve been reminded of my weakness in leading, though I find some partners are easier to lead – there’s an element of trust, I needed more conviction in my movements – once I’m in the flow, it’s fine! I don’t have much technique on my arms and hands, I never learned the subtleties of the grip – that’s the detail missing. There’s so much I can deconstruct, I tried to ask questions but they sound stupid… details are so important, it’s the little things. Anyone can do big steps or learn to co-ordinate, it’s the little soft gesturing that’s so important in leading – it’s like trying to find an indicator for a car. Same thing! You lead by suggesting what is coming next… I definitely need to work on that.

Freestyle dancing?

 The teacher disappeared and I had no idea what was going on, some danced and a majority started chatting and checking their phones. I was just keen to dance! I thought it was weird that no-one was looking to dance in a dance class! I asked a couple of girls and they happily obliged, I’d like to think they enjoyed my haphazard interpretation of Bachata!


A new person came in and people lined up, a few of us had no idea what was going on – the warm-up footwork looked fun so I joined in! It was halfway through the lesson before one of the organisers told me it was an Improvers class! Another hour passed easily, we learned a very sexy arm/spinning combo, something I’ve seen in Salsa but never had the chance to learn. It was challenging and much more fun! Only the last part threw me off a bit, my arms and legs didn’t co-operate as much, not had enough time to memorise the move – a tiny hiccup in two hours isn’t bad!

I didn’t talk to any of the men, they all looked a bit serious, we just shared the space! Maybe it’s the male posturing, something I’d never understand. I paid £6 for the first lesson and offered to pay for the second too, it’s an honest thing to do, I just fell into the class. I know dancers have to make a living so I did the right thing. That’s £12 for tw0 hours, ouch!

What are the teachers like?

Both the guys were friendly, but that’s it. Some people are approachable – I don’t think they were, that’s my impression. I’ve seen my fair share of dance teachers, I know how to tell them apart. Then again, they don’t know me. They might be thinking I’m just another one-off guy? I don’t know, the lady organiser, possibly Anne was very nice and friendly – I appreciated that.

Would I come back?

There were enough things to tempt me back either on Wednesdays or Fridays. Now that Flamenco is on a break until September (noooo!), I could fit Wednesdays in, can try this before Salsa. I did like the size of the class, and the teaching was ok. I definitely need to keep going to form a better opinion. There’s nothing wrong with the set-up, the only gripe I had was the dancing partner – but that’s not their fault. Yes, I had a good time and it’s a cute class that I would like to see more of.


Engxit: Euro 2016

In News, Rant, Sports on June 27, 2016 at 11:55 pm

After qualifying with a 100% record and decent expectations of a young team, yet again we failed. This time probably as humiliating as our World Cup 2014 adventure in Brazil, or this could be our greatest humiliation ever.

We drew with a poor Russian team by conceding a last minute goal (1-1), we beat Wales by a last minute goal (2-1), and couldn’t score against a determined Slovakia because of six unnecessary changes to the line-up (0-0). If we had beaten Slovakia we would have gone a different route towards the final – by sheer blessing we got Iceland for the last 16. The population of Iceland is 323,000 – less than the population of Leicester.

We were expected to win against the lowest ranking team left in the tournament.

Well… that was the script – except no one read it.

We scored an early penalty and then conceded two in quick successions. Fair enough, we had more than enough time to fight back and get a goal – simple enough – but just like the game against Slovakia, nobody stepped up. Before halftime I could tell we had no control over the midfield, their players were more determined than ours in winning everything – all the crosses into the box were met by a staunch Icelandic head, we never had the height anyway but even so, air route was going nowhere. Ground route had zero success either, but we did do plenty of stray balls and long shots.

In second half I could tell panic was setting in, their body postures were awful, they weren’t running, there were no leaders, no passion, and no tactics. The longer it dragged on, the more desperate we were to try long shots, and by the 60th minute the balloon popped, suddenly no-one had any fight left. Iceland was comfortable coming out, they weren’t scared because we carried no threat, mentally the England squad was in pieces, that’s one of their greatest weakness… they’re so scared, anxiety froze the entire team bar one or two players. Shots were hoofed all over the arena, crosses went all over the place, it was awful… we must have been the worst team in Euro, it must have been hilarious to the rest of Europe. We were utterly abysmally depressing, everything about our touch stank… the pub urged and screamed at them to move on, but nothing came. Rashford injected a lot of energy but he was only introduced with six minutes left, could have come on sooner! I would vote him as Man of The Match!

So, another major tournament out.

It was embarrassing for every English supporter out there, it was shockingly bad.

Credit to Iceland for sticking to their game plan and wanting the win more than our boys. Good luck against France. I have nothing left to say about the lads… when they get home, they will be booed. If they went out fighting like Lions that’s fine, but they meekly surrendered to a country smaller than Leicester. It’s shambolic isn’t it?

Oh well, out of the EU, out of the Euros, we really don’t want any part in anything!

A less than United Kingdom

In News, Politics, Rant on June 25, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Article by Mark Easton, Home Editor BBC News.


The EU referendum has revealed an ancient, jagged fault line across the United Kingdom. It is a scar that has sliced through conventional politics and traditional social structures, and it is far from clear whether the kingdom can still call itself united.

The referendum was ostensibly about membership of the European Union. But voters took it to be asking a different question: what kind of country do you want Britain to be?

Yesterday seemed to offer a fork in the road: one path (Remain) promised it would lead to a modern world of opportunity based on interdependence; the other (Leave) was advertised as a route to an independent land that would respect tradition and heritage.

Which path people took depended on the prism through which they saw the world.

It has been striking to me how in one place almost everybody expressed genuine bewilderment that anyone would consider anything but a vote to leave, and in another neighbourhood they are quite baffled as to why people wouldn’t be desperate to remain.

The maps of how people voted show that this was a victory for the countryside over the cities, particularly in England. London, Manchester, Bristol, Leicester, Leeds and Liverpool – for the most part, the metropolitan centres voted to remain. But the further from the big city centres one travels, the more emphatically people voted to leave.

City dwellers are generally more comfortable with globalisation and diversity. Country dwellers are more traditional in their outlook.

Successful cities are places in flux, constantly evolving to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world. A city without cranes is a city that is moribund.

But in market towns and rural villages, it is the opposite, with a focus on protecting heritage and celebrating history. It is a more conservative outlook that can see modern life as a threat, often nostalgic for a simpler, bucolic order.

Anti-London sentiment

At its most concentrated, this divide manifests itself as anti-London. There is a widespread view in the land beyond the M25 that the capital has been the driving force behind a globalising agenda that pays no regard to the customs and way of life of non-metropolitan Britain. London’s overwhelming vote to remain will simply be seen as evidence of how out of touch it has become.


With Scotland voting overall to remain, and a similar picture in Northern Ireland, there will be powerful pressures upon the fabric of the UK. This country finds itself having to deal with an existential crisis.

As smaller nations with greater anxiety about isolation and irrelevance, Scotland and Northern Ireland saw the choice in a markedly different way to England. The Scots will be asking themselves some serious questions about how their best interests are now served. Similar conversations will take place in parts of Northern Ireland.

For many English voters, this was an opportunity to wave the flag of St George and restore a sense of national pride. Many resented what they saw as special treatment for other parts of the UK, particularly Scotland. In some respects, the vote for Brexit was a vote for English nationalism.

It was also a vote to stop foreigners and foreign ways changing the character of neighbourhoods and communities.

Anxiety about immigration is one manifestation of a broader fear of globalisation – an alien force that makes people uneasy or frightened, emerging unbidden and unwanted from the strange planet London.

The rural/urban divide is matched by a generational divide: young people largely supported Remain because they tend to be unafraid of modernity and embrace difference; older people largely supported Leave because they are more comfortable with what is familiar and are less at ease with change.

So it was that, for many, the seat of power became not the solution but the problem. London’s “political class”, you will hear it said, has been determined to force its will on the rest of the country, using every devilish trick at its disposal to make sure it gets its way.

Before a vote was cast, a taxi driver in the north-west of England told me that Remain would win because the establishment would make sure it did. When I queried this view, he explained matter of factly that votes would be altered or the count fixed. To him, it was quite obvious.

He was not alone. In the days up to the referendum, Brexit supporters were advising each other to take a pen along to the polling station rather than use the pencil on offer when voting.

That belief in an establishment conspiracy will not go away with the result. The break with the EU will not be straightforward or swift. The disappointments of a messy Brexit, the concessions and compromises that real politics will demand, will test our system of governance.

Trust in politicians, already at very low levels, is likely to have been damaged still further by a campaign that saw both sides accuse the other of bare-faced lies, with institutions and authorities dismissed as corrupt, experts and public servants as biased.

The pillars of the British establishment have been damaged by the indiscriminate potshots of the disenchanted. Scepticism has given way to suspicion and cynicism. Our precious democracy has suffered injuries that will take years of careful work to repair.

The referendum has reminded us of a dangerous division that lies just beneath the surface of Britain.

Industrial revolution

It is a volcanic gulf that has its origins in the furnaces of the Industrial Revolution. Traditional rural ways were crushed by the arrival of vast mechanised municipalities, and the legacy of that violent social upheaval lingers today.

In the century after 1750, Manchester was transformed from a market town of 18,000 inhabitants to a teeming metropolis of 300,000. It was a similar story in Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle.

Those sucked into the gravitational pull of the new manufacturing centres were forced to adapt to urban dominance, but such was the resentment that it lives on to this day.

For the poor agricultural labourers marched from farm to factory, and for the rich landowners supplanted by ambitious industrialists, the new age of international trade was as horrifying as some regard the globalisation of today.

Then, as now, there was bewilderment at how anyone would willingly give up the certainties of age-old structures and customs for the risks of rapid social and economic change. Then, as now, equal bewilderment that anyone would willingly forgo the benefits of progress.

That is the ancient fault line that this referendum has exposed once again. The disillusioned of the left and the traditionalists of the right found common ground in opposing globalisation. The young, the well-educated and wealthy, those most resilient and optimistic, were far more willing to embrace the opportunities it offers.

It is a fault line across the UK, a scar that has never been properly treated. I do wonder now if it is more likely to tear apart than to be healed.


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